As ecommerce competition is growing increasingly fierce, the chase for innovative solutions to improve the customer experience continues. One such solution, and a very promising one at that, is Progressive Web Apps (PWA).

PWA has completely changed how people interact with websites.​ And even though the PWA technology has been on the market for some time now, its popularity has skyrocketed over the past few years.

So, what is a PWA, and why is it such a revolutionary new technology?

Well, because PWAs manage to combine the best of two worlds. They bring together the best part of websites, with the very best features of native apps, to create a phenomenal user experience on mobile. They are a special kind of web app, accessed like websites, but with benefits such as push notifications, offline usability, and access to hardware – stuff only available on native apps before.​​​

Related reading: Omnichannel Strategy & Investments In Mobile Commerce

Introduction to PWA

If mobile apps and the web had a baby—that baby would be PWA. At its core, PWA helps businesses build web applications with the look and feel of native mobile apps but using web technologies like JavaScript, CSS, and HTML. They are fast, can be added to a smartphone’s home screen, send push notifications, and even work offline.

The PWA starts as a standard web page in the browser. But as the user explores the page, they’re prompted to “Add to Home Screen”. When the user approves this request, the PWA will instead appear on their home screen. PWAs can even be configured to hide the browser UI controls (such as the URL toolbar) to look exactly like native apps.

One problem many ecommerce sites struggle with is that of long load times. PWAs offer reliable performance on par with native apps and can solve this issue and guarantee that users can always access your site quickly. And there is no question about it, faster load times as the way to go! According to Deloitte, faster load times lead to an increase in order value and user transactions, and a decrease in bounce rates.

The PWA also removes a lot of friction and simplifies the user journey by background content updates, push notifications, and effectively using the browser cache and storage. Using caches allows visited sites to also function offline. All it takes is one first visit to the website; after that, the user can rely on a fast app-like site that works even on slow networks.

Mobile Commerce & PWA

One reason for the increasing relevance of PWAs is that mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic in overall reach. At the same time, the way consumers make their mobile purchases is changing. App usage is declining, and 53% of worldwide shoppers would rather use a retailer’s mobile website than their app. Consumers want the whole experience on mobile – directly from their browser – without having to download an app.

Related reading: Retailers Prioritize Digital Mobile Commerce Strategy: Here’s Why

The Business Benefits of PWA

A Modern Customer Experience

Modern customers find it cumbersome to look for and download apps. They also hate slow-loading sites. PWAs solve both those problems while outperforming native apps. PWAs also offer convenient offline capabilities and app-like functionality. So, for example, if the customer would lose their connection in the middle of checkout, they can still use the site, and their information will be saved. When the connection is back, the PWA just sends the customer a reminder to check out, eliminating a lot of the friction in their buyer journey.

Increased Reach

Over the past couple of years, the mobile web audience has soared. Today, Google Chrome has 1 billion mobile users compared to 400 million users in 2016. As per Comscore’s report, the mobile web’s reach is 2.5 times more than that of apps when considering the top 1000 sites and apps.

Lower Cost of Acquisition

Mobile apps remain difficult to discover compared to websites. For this reason, the web beats native apps with cheaper user-acquisition costs. With more exposure and low friction for onboarding, the PWA attracts more users at a lower price.

Improved Conversion Rates

The PWA’s seamless front end stops bad networks from losing customers. For example, Flipkart launched their PWA, Flipkart-lite, which they claim increased the conversion rate by 70% with lower acquisition cost. Even with a bad network, the PWA improves your conversion rate.

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7 PWA Facts and Capabilities to Remember

The arrival of PWAs benefits your ability to adopt the best technical solutions fast and improve your customer experience.

  1. PWAs have a single codebase for all platforms
  2. They have access to most native mobile hardware capabilities
  3. PWAs can send push notifications
  4. PWA works as a responsive website or a mobile app, depending on the device
  5. PWAs don’t need to be downloaded or installed–simply visiting the website is enough
  6. PWAs use browser caches and storage, to keep working properly with a poor internet connection or even offline
  7. PWAs can reach more people compared to native applications and benefit from Search Engine Optimisation strategy and efforts

How to Get Started With PWA?

If you want to try your hand at building a PWA, there are many resources to support you.

Google has a great and easy-to-follow tutorial on PWAS on the web.dev site. Mozilla also has a lot of documentation on building progressive web apps, and Microsoft offers great developer docs on building PWAs. Microsoft has even created a tool, the PWABuilder, that will help you rebuild your site to a PWA. There are also WordPress plugins that can help you turn your site into a PWA.

It’s not that complicated to get started building a PWA – we’ve compiled a list of the things you need.

  • HTTPS – You first need a server with an HTTPS connection to ensure all user data is safe and secure.
  • Application Shell – The application shell will provide a quick first impression as your app is loading. The application shell is what the user will see when they interact with your PWA for the first time.
  • Service workers – Service workers are a key technology behind PWA. They support your app when offline, run background tasks, and perform advanced caching. Service workers can send push notifications, badge icons and run different tasks in the background.
  • Manifest file – This is a JSON file containing all the information that controls how your PWA appears and works, enabling you to set things like name, description, colors, and other features and functions of your PWA.

PWA Best Practices

Keep Things Simple

Progressive Web Apps can be a powerful tool that takes your mobile user experience to new heights, delivering immediate impact. But a common mistake is getting overly excited and implementing all the features like home-screen install, push notifications, offline mode, etc. Little goes a long way, and you want to keep the end-user experience intuitive and straightforward – not distracting or intrusive.

Prioritize Content

The purpose of PWAs is to help users through their journeys as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. A clear value proposition, clear Call-To-Actions (CTAs), and a simple and appealing design will be most beneficial. ​

Reduce Friction

​Long load times are not the only thing that makes people bounce. Tedious forms and complicated checkout processes also cause high drop-off rates. Opt for things like autofill, integrated payments, one-tap sign-out,​ etc, to reduce friction as much as possible.

Make Wait Feel Short

Letting the users experience progress, for example, by preloading screens and implementing transitional animations, makes waits feel shorter and a lot less frustrating.​​

Think About Offline

Make the most out of your PWA solution by supplying all your essential features in the offline mode, by implementing browser cache and storage.

Audit Your App With Lighthouse

You can use Google’s open-source performance management tool Lighthouse for auditing your app or page. Lighthouse will give you an audit report of the page and a reference doc for each audit item with recommendations on how to fix whatever needs fixing.

How Vaimo Can Help

Vaimo is one of the world’s leading experts in digital commerce and experience. We work with brands, retailers, and manufacturers worldwide and have helped many of our clients build an outstanding PWA frontend. Get in touch with our team, to learn how your company can benefit from PWA.

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